Hockey is on the rise in Ohio, and the Blue Jackets are a gritty hard working team. The NHL roster has a nice mix of skill, grit, experience and youth, as GM Jarmo Kekalainen and his staff have done a fine job. While the team struggled mightily with injuries, it created an opportunity for some of their kids to get some real exposure in the NHL and the kids looked alright.
In addition to the under 21 year old players who saw NHL ice time there is an impressive crop of prospects behind them on the way as well. The Blue Jackets may be a tough team to play against now, but that is only going to get worse for their opponents as their prospects continue to mature.
1. Oliver Bjorkstrand: Right Wing – 6′ 0″ / 168
Drafted: 89th overall in the third round of 2013 draft by the Blue Jackets
A slender kid, but man can he put up offense. Bjorkstrand has a great release to his shot and was a consistent threat all tourney long. – THN Ryan Kennedy
2. Zach Werenski: Defense – 6′ 2″ / 214 lbs
Drafted: 8th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Blue Jackets.
A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman that has a strong understanding of the game. Excels in key situations and is able to execute under pressure. Possesses good vision and awareness on the ice; uses his abilities to put offensive and defensive pressure on the opposition. All-in-all, a very strong all-around defenceman that consistently brings his game every night. – Elite Prospects
3. Kerby Rychel: Left Wing – 6’1” / 214 lbs
Drafted: 19th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by the Blue Jackets.
Rychel has solid, upper-end quality hands and has come a long way since first being drafted. His skating, once a liability, has improved; allowing him to let his tactical and technical ability show. Consistency was an issue early in his career. While he still has defensive lapses at times his two-way play is much-improved. Like his father, former NHLer Warren Rychel, he has a bit of pugnaciousness and plays with an edge – Hockeys Future
4. Sonny Milano: Left Wing – 6’0” / 190 lbs
Drafted: 16th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by the Blue Jackets.
Milano is a skilled winger with good hands who likes to carry the puck and have it on his stick. He has a quick first step as well as good straight line speed and able to use his edges well to elude and evade. He uses finesse puck skills and change of direction to beat defender. – Future Considersations
5. William Karlsson: Center – 6’0” / 185 lbs
Drafted: 53rd overall in the second round of 2011 draft by the Ducks.
Acquired: Columbus acquired Karlsson, Rene Bourque and a 2015 second round pick for James Wisniewski and a 2015 third round pick.
A really good two-way center with an offensive upside. Pretty sure he will put it all together and become at least a 3C, maybe even 2C. Especially if he can develop his finishing. Possesses all the tools/mindset, I think it’s just a matter of time and that he needs to adapt to a new system and type of hockey.” Patrick Hansen/The Union Blue
6. Josh Anderson: Right Wing – 6’3” / 218 lbs
Drafted: 95th overall in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by the Blue Jackets
Anderson attended training camp with the Blue Jackets before being assigned to AHL affiliate Springfield to start the 2014-15 season. In his first year of pro hockey he is playing mostly a lower line role with the Falcons while being second on the team in penalty minutes. Anderson’s offensive numbers in junior hockey suggest he can have more of an offensive element to his game as he gains more experience. Long-term he projects as a second or third line power forward who plays a high impact, punishing game and can provide supplemental scoring. – Hockeys Future
7. Dillon Heatherington: Defence – 6’4” / 213 lbs
Drafted: 50th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Blue Jackets.
Heatherington is clearly his club’s top defender and is deployed to play against his opponent’s top forwards. His minutes were limited later in the third period in the game I watched him and he showed some signs of slowing down, but was not a detriment to his club. His offensive skills are limited, but due to his defensive nature I expect him to line up in Columbus’ second or third paring in a shut-down role in 3-4 years after a brief adaption-period in the AHL. – Hockey Prospectus
8. Gabriel Carlsson: Defence – 6’4” / 183 lbs
Drafted: 29th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Blue Jackets.
Big stay-at-home defenseman with excellent reach and good hockey sense. Carlsson is also quite mobile for his size and has a good first pass. Offensively, he will never put up any big numbers, but has the potential to become a more than capable shut-down-defenseman. – Elite Prospects
9. Paul Bittner: Left Wing – 6’4” / 194 lbs
Drafted 38th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Blue Jackets.
A big-bodied power forward that plays with tenacity and an edge. Relentless on the forecheck and is able to bully his way to the net with his size and speed. Has a good stick around the net and has an accurate rocket of a shot. Thinks the game well and is able to frustrate opposing players while playing physically. All-in-all, an impact player that uses his size and skill to his advantage. Gaining consistency will be integral to his future success. – Elite Prospects
10. Oscar Dansk: Goalie – 6’3” / 187 lbs
Drafted 31st overall in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Blue Jackets.
He’s very big and very agile, and uses a hybrid style of goaltending which some find tough to judge. He’s very fundamentally sound and mentally tough, which are hallmarks of good goaltending and is a first rate competitor. – Dave Dickinson
Recent Roster Graduates Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray, Alex Wennberg.
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling